, Newburyport, MA

August 19, 2013

Bridge walkway not the first

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I find it somewhat disingenuous for the DOT to tout the new Whittier Bridge as having “the first pedestrian traffic lane on an interstate bridge in Massachusetts history” (”State, city leaders gather for Whittier Bridge ceremony,” Aug. 8). While that may be true, the original bridge did include a walkway, the remnants of which are still easily visible from the northbound side of I-95. This pre-dated the Interstate Highway System, so the DOT statement is at least technically correct. Unfortunately, through neglect the walkway was abandoned, as the entire bridge will be in a few years.

Contrary to DOT statements about the expected lifespan of bridges, the Sagamore Bridge on Cape Cod, which has essentially the same design and was built at the same time, has many decades of life ahead of it. It has been maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, and has been regularly painted, the last time being just this year.

The Whittier, on the other hand, has been the responsibility of the DOT, and hasn’t seen a paintbrush in 40 years or more.

While large construction projects certainly make great photo-ops for local politicians to congratulate themselves on how well they are spending our money, if the bridge had been maintained properly in the first place, they wouldn’t be replacing it at all (and we wouldn’t have to listen to DOT engineers explain to us the benefits of reducing peak travel time over the bridge by 3.5 seconds, thanks to an additional lane in each direction). One can only hope that the DOT does a better job maintaining their new bridge than they did the last one.

Jay Harris